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Rolling the dice on red backfires for Marquez

Rolling the dice on red backfires for Marquez

Marquez was just 22 corners away from looking like a tactical genius, having gambled on Bridgestone’s red-striped hard compound rear...

With nineteen years of experience reporting on MotoGP™ for Motorcycle News, Matthew Birt knows the championship inside-out. For the 2015 season he joins the motogp.com team to bring you exclusive news and opinion from inside the paddock.

Last Sunday’s unforgettable Argentina MotoGP™ scrap between Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez showed once again how fine the line is between hero and zero in racing.

Marquez was just 22 corners away from looking like a tactical genius and being the hero, having gambled on racing Bridgestone’s red-striped hard compound rear tyre at the Termas de Rio Hondo.

But Rolling the dice on red backfired.

Rossi opted to run the extra hard, which Bridgestone added to the 2015 allocation specifically for the Argentinian round to cope with its high speed corners, high abrasion and high risk of excessive tyre wear.

Marquez did all he could. He bolted at the front to open up a commanding lead of over four seconds, hoping the advantage gained in the early laps would be enough as his grip rapidly deteriorated.

But it was Rossi’s choice of the extra hard that was ultimately the right call, even if he was the only one of the top five that started the penultimate lap on the hardest option.

Jorge Lorenzo ran the extra hard too, and he wasn’t in the same postcode as Rossi. He couldn’t get the extra hard to work like Rossi and the Spaniard was impressed and depressed in equal measure, describing his teammate’s performance as ‘incredible and unbelievable’.

The different tyre choice for Rossi and Marquez was a major talking point in itself. But the real headline grabber was how Rossi’s brilliant chase of Marquez ended with the Spaniard pointless and Rossi victorious for the second time in three races.

Marquez had lost so much rear grip that he was struggling to carry any momentum out of corners and certainly struggling to get into turns. So when his Repsol Honda squirmed on the brakes going into turn five, he was wide enough on corner entry for Rossi to pounce.

This was alien territory for Marquez. The 22-year-old is not normally the hunted. He’s normally the ruthless predator.

Marquez was behind Rossi for less than 10 seconds, yet in that short space of time there was contact twice. The second impact as the pair prepared for the fast flick into the tyre-punishing turn six was heavy enough to send Marquez careering down the track.

It opened the floodgates about whether one or both touches with Rossi were deliberate acts of aggression - a case of ‘if I can’t win, nor can you’.

Marquez has denied there was any malicious intent, and as Race Direction called it, it looked like a racing incident.

Rossi moved slightly to the right to give himself the fastest line into turn six. Marquez was on a marginally tighter line exiting turn five, and as the pair headed for the same piece of tarmac, you know what happened next.

What we have seen so far in 2015 is that Rossi is riding better than ever, and Marquez is not immune to pressure.

Rossi’s two wins have come from epic charges through the pack from the middle of the third row of the grid. In fact, Rossi’s last three wins have all come from eighth on the grid, so beware if he’s eighth again in Jerez.

Marquez though has made big mistakes in two of the first three races, and sits 30-points behind Rossi in the rankings. What it does is set up a mouth-watering fight for the 2015 title and I bet the busiest people in Spain this week have been the ticket office staff in Jerez.

Quickly back to Argentina though:

When Marquez made contact with Rossi on the exit of turn five, the 36-year-old had a quick glance over his right shoulder to understand where Marquez was. After taking his 110th career win, it might be Giacomo Agostini that’s looking over his shoulder now, as Rossi edges ever closer to his record GP winning tally of 122.

Tags:
MotoGP, 2015, GRAN PREMIO RED BULL DE LA REPÚBLICA ARGENTINA, RAC, Marc Marquez, Valentino Rossi, Repsol Honda Team, Movistar Yamaha MotoGP, #46vs93

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